NASCAR: 5 longshot picks to win the regular season finale at Daytona

Daytona International Speedway, Coke Zero Sugar 400, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
Daytona International Speedway, Coke Zero Sugar 400, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /

NASCAR Cup Series races at Daytona International Speedway are known for producing upset winners. Who could pull it off this weekend?

Heading into the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway, there are 17 drivers battling for the 16th and final playoff spot.

Given the nature of superspeedway racing, it’s not hard to believe that every one of those 17 drivers has just as good of a chance as any of the others to find victory lane this Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400.

This 160-lap race around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked Daytona Beach, Florida oval, which was moved from its traditional Independence Day weekend date to the end of August so that it would be the final race of the playoffs, has produced first-time winners in three of the last five years.

In four of the last five years, the winners of the event had not been locked into the playoffs prior to solidifying their spots in this race. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 2016 to find the most recent Coke Zero Sugar 400 winner whose career win total is in double digits.

Bottom line, no NASCAR Cup Series race does a better job of creating chaos than this one, and its role as the regular season finale only increases the stakes.

It also makes this race arguably the most appealing when it comes to picking an upset winner.

FanDuel Sportsbook is currently offering fans an instant $200 just for betting $5, so why not take a chance on a longshot at a track known for producing surprise winners?

Because of the fact that superspeedway races are generally known to level the playing field, the favorites tend to have longer odds than they do in other oval races, and much of the field tends to be listed within a much narrower odds range. For those reasons, only drivers listed with odds of +4000 or longer were considered for our five selections.

NASCAR at Daytona longshot picks: No. 1 – Erik Jones

Erik Jones earned his first career victory at Daytona in 2018, and he always runs well in superspeedway races. The superspeedway speed has also been one of the very few bright spots of Legacy Motor Club’s season this year.

NASCAR at Daytona longshot picks: No. 2 – Justin Haley

Justin Haley pulled off arguably the greatest upset in Cup Series history at Daytona in a rain-shortened race in 2019. Heck, the guy was running 27th when the race-ending caution came out, yet he ended up with the winner’s trophy.

While some understandably viewed the win as a fluke, Haley positioned himself for the win last year before rain resulted in pretty much everybody not named Austin Dillon wrecking out. There’s no reason to believe he won’t be just as strong this weekend.

NASCAR at Daytona longshot picks: No. 3 – Todd Gilliland

Can you imagine Front Row Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports getting the same number of drivers into the playoffs? Bob Jenkins’ team has been the feel-good story of 2023, and that story could get even better if Todd Gilliland, who has generally run better at superspeedways than any other tracks, finds victory lane.

NASCAR at Daytona longshot picks: No. 4 – Harrison Burton

It seems like the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford always finds itself at the front of superspeedway races — superspeedway races at Daytona in particular — no matter who is behind the wheel: Paul Menard, Matt DiBenedetto, Harrison Burton, you name it.

While he has yet to convert his speed into a great result, Burton has just as good of a chance as anybody to get the job done — potentially to secure his ride for 2024.

NASCAR at Daytona longshot picks: No. 5 – Corey LaJoie

While superspeedway races do generally give the little teams more of a chance to compete with the powerhouses in general, this has not been truer than it has been for Corey LaJoie and Spire Motorsports.

All six of LaJoie’s career top 10 finishes have come in superspeedway races, and seven of the team’s top 10 finishes, including Haley’s 2019 win, have come in the same. Half of each have come at Daytona.

Odds and availability are subject to change, so lock in your $200 now!

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The Coke Zero Sugar 400 is set to take place at Daytona International Speedway this Saturday, August 26. It is scheduled to be broadcast live on NBC beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and be sure not to miss it!